BIDs setting alcohol policy at City Parks. The latest at Tompkins Square Park: Want to see the movie on the lawn? Have your bags searched first.

wine bottle picnic at bryant park

wine bottle picnic at bryant park

It would be lovely to openly have a glass of a wine or a beer in a park. New York City Parks technically don’t allow that.

The New York Times reported recently about a certain permissiveness around this in Bryant Park.

I was happy to see a loosening of the endless array of rules.

But, it’s never quite so simple when something happens in a park in New York City, is it?

It seems the “policy” is dictated park-to-park and very often by the local BID (business improvement district) or Conservancy (pretty close in composition to a BID).

So Central Park and Bryant Park – most likely perceived as accommodating a certain clientele – sip their wine but Prospect Park and Tompkins Square Park – perhaps a bit more mixed crowd – get ticketed. Or, in the case of Tompkins Square, people have their bags searched before going on the lawn!

On Wednesday, at Tompkins Square Park, as a requirement to gain access to a spot on the lawn to watch the scheduled movie, private security at a gate began searching every person’s bag. At a public park! This is to keep out undesirable elements and undesirable alcohol. The “private security” is hired by several local businesses which are “sponsoring” the movie nights in the park.

So what is the policy? Who determines it?

The New York Times story (July 16) covered the Monday movie nights on the lawn at Bryant Park and the fact that, despite a no-alcohol “rule” in the Parks, people come in with full bottles of wine, sangria, beer and the like.

The security guard, hired by the Bryant Park Conservancy, told the Times, he “turned a blind eye” on movie nights, “so long as it is covered, like in a bag.”

The article states, “The official line from the city’s parks department is that alcohol cannot be brought into city parks, though in the summer of 2003, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg suggested that drinking wine at concerts was O.K.” (As I recall, at the same time, at a beach in a poorer neighborhood, people were ticketed for drinking beer in public and this caused some controversy in light of the Mayor’s statement allowing Central Park wine sipping.)

The BID’s or Conservancies (or some other business-related facsimile) – private entities allowed to govern our parks by Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Benepe – set the rules.

Will the Parks Department ever stop astounding me by their endless privatizing actions?

However ! The Tompkins Square crowd is fighting back. Join them to protest this bag searching policy by coming to Tompkins Square Park (at gate at entrance to central grassy area) on Wednesday, July 30th, 7 p.m. and … refuse to have your possessions searched.

Read more on this… The full Letter about the incident In the Inbox:

On Wednesday, July 16, the gentrification and privatization of Tompkins Square Park (and the Lower East Side) hit a new low as residents of the neighborhood were told they were not allowed to enter the central grassy area of the park–usually accessible to all–UNLESS THEY WERE WILLING TO HAVE THEIR BAGS SEARCHED by private unidentified “security guards”.

Under the guise of “searching for alcohol” and “keeping out people like the squatters” (an actual quote), a private group that is organizing film showings in the park, hired private security guards who (more…)